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Dr Dabic’s tips for fleeing international war crimes tribunals . . . and other herbal remedies

The announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi Senior, his son Saif Al-Islam and Abdullah Al-Senussi (Gaddafi’s brother in law and intelligence chief) have left the accused three options. Either they can fight to the death (akin to that of Saddam Hussein’s sons in Iraq), they can flee the country (the route taken by Tunisia’s former President Ben Ali) or finally, they can grow beards. By this I mean go into hiding within Libya rather than continuing their struggle to hang on to the reins of power. It just so happens that growing a beard is a mandatory prerequisite, if we look at the example set by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Radovan Karadžić (aka Dr Dabic).

Although the ICC is relatively toothless, as states have to sign up to the Rome Statute, the warrants that it issued are enough to draw a line under the possibility of successfully negotiating Gaddafi’s exodus from power (it should be noted that an arrest warrant from the ICC doesn’t necessarily mean that the accused are guilty, but in this case I’ll bet you a tuppence). Gaddafi and his co-accused are now aware that, if they give up power, they will not be able to live as private citizens in Libya. They will be dragged in front of judges at The Hague and made to answer for their crimes.

What a difference a beard makes. Radovan Karadžić as his alias Dr Dabic. Image: Mail Online

The ‘fight’ option is likely to be the Gaddafi and co’s initial reaction, even if it is only to lay the groundwork for one of the other options. The regime has managed to hold on for over a hundred days and the political will within NATO and the Arab League is beginning to crack, as evidenced by escalating calls for a ceasefire from Italian and Arab representatives. The advances of the rebel forces have slowed dramatically and a potential stalemate is developing (despite the introduction of Apache attack helicopters). Gaddafi can hold on for a while yet.

The second option wouldn’t be called ‘cutting and running’ exactly – more precisely, it might be called ‘choosing to leave the country due to a healthy regard for personal freedom and civil liberty’ . . . their own, that is. Let’s leave the Libyan people out of this. This option, however, is not as easy as just crossing the border into Tunisia (especially since Gaddafi’s rockets have managed to find their way on to the Tunisian side of the border in recent weeks). Many countries, including Tunisia as of September, are signed up to the Rome Statute and would hand over Gaddafi to the ICC, so Gaddafi and co. must needs be selective. There is also the minor issue of which country would actually open their door. Gaddafi has, to put it mildly, annoyed a large number of his neighbours over the years. One suggested country is Belarus… a country fondly known as the last dictatorship in Europe.  Gaddafi Junior however, has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of leaving Libya, adding that he is happy to ‘live or die in Libya’.

Then, as I mentioned before, there is the beard option. The formula goes as such: just before defeat, the accused, with the help of supporters, may alter their appearance and go underground. Saddam Hussein, of course, took this to the extreme… and was found hiding in a hole… with a beard. A better example to follow might be that of Radovan Karadžić, who managed to grow a beard, create an alias, establish a legitimate business and, most importantly (for this example), avoid capture for over a decade, despite living in Belgrade.  Although spending the rest of their lives in hiding amongst their fellow citizens may not initially appeal to the accused, it would give them the ability to stay in their own country and allow a certain amount of freedom, albeit at the cost of the power and influence that they currently hold. It should also be noted that going into hiding is no guarantee of escaping justice. It may buy them time, but loyalties can change… especially if the reward on offer is large enough.

The above options for Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam and Abdullah Al-Senussi all come at a formidable cost, be it death, imprisonment, exile or hiding. If this trio can come to terms with the fact that they would suffer permanent exile, then leaving Libya would be the best option for them. It would allow them to maintain a comfortable standard of living as well as escaping justice for their actions. Time will tell which option the accused choose when the fighting draws to a close.

Neil Waghorn writes for DefenceIQ.com

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